Analysis |

Israel Could Be One Attack Away From a Palestinian Intifada

An attack against an Israeli family on the eve of a holiday, or a suicide attack that would recall the old traumas, could be a total game changer. Against the backdrop of a national election campaign, campaigns could be dominated by a securitized agenda if the Israeli public's sense of safety is undermined

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
A Palestinian protester shouts slogans during a demonstration against the Palestinian Authority security forces following the arrest of two members of Hamas in the West Bank city of Nablus, Tuesday.
A Palestinian protester shouts slogans during a demonstration against the Palestinian Authority security forces following the arrest of two members of Hamas in the West Bank city of Nablus, Tuesday.Credit: Mahmud Hams / AFP
Amos Harel
Amos Harel

The situation in the West Bank is still not reaching the magnitude of a third intifada, but anyone following the events on a daily basis can clearly see that a fundamental change is taking place.

Not only the weak control by the Palestinian Authority in the northern West Bank, or the growing opposition to the detention campaigns in Israel, but also an increase in the number of shooting attacks, which are once again spilling over onto the major highways. At the moment, it doesn’t seem as though the steps being taken by the two sides will suffice to check the spread of the fire.

The following is a partial roundup of the events of the past week: Armed Palestinians fired twice within less than 24 hours at Israeli soldiers at the Jalama checkpoint north of Jenin. In the second incident, which developed into an exchange of fire at close range, Maj. Bar Falach of the Nahal Brigade and two armed Palestinians were killed. The following day, last Thursday, an Israeli settler suffered moderate wounds in a shooting at the settlement of Carmel in the South Hebron Hills.

Since then there have been at least three more shooting attacks: two at the Salem checkpoint in the Jenin area and one in the village of Hawara south of Nablus, all in broad daylight.

In Hawara, four bullets hit an Israeli car. There were no casualties. And in Nablus, in the early morning hours, the Palestinian security services faced bullets and stones when they came to arrest a Hamas militant in the city center. A resident of Nablus was killed when he was caught in the line of fire between the security services and militants.

This still would not be considered an intifada, because to date it has not spread to the general public. There are no major demonstrations during which Palestinians show up en masse to confront IDF soldiers. But clearly, young people, particularly in and around Jenin and Nablus, are feeling more emboldened to challenge Israeli and Palestinian security forces.

Palestinian militants take part in a protest following a clash between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli army, in Kafr Dan village near Jenin, last week.Credit: RANEEN SAWAFTA / Reuters

Their activity is not organized, one of the major challenges faced by the IDF and Shin Bet. Despite surveillance across the West Bank and on social media, there will always be individuals or local squads who manage to evade Israel's panoptic eye.

At the same time, there are signs of increasing attempts by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, in the Gaza Strip and at headquarters abroad (Turkey, Syria, Lebanon), to hitch a ride on the back of the tiger. On Sunday the Shin Bet once again reported that it had arrested seven Hamas members, in Nablus and Hebron, who had been trained in the manufacture of explosive devices based on instructions they received from the Gaza Strip. Islamic Jihad operates somewhat differently. The organization floods the West Bank with weapons, promises payment to anyone who carries out attacks – and hopes for the best.

The Israeli public is largely indifferent to what is happening in the West Bank. Although Nablus and Jenin are only an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv, to most Israelis they are located on the dark side of the moon.

Public interest was aroused when a wave of attacks in the spring reached the Green Line, but a tight closure of the seam line area and the IDF's operations in Jenin pushed most of the friction inward, deep into the West Bank areas. Now, in light of the number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank (over 80 since the start of the year) and the many clashes, terror is once again spilling over, to the highways.

In the current situation, one serious attack would be enough to change the situation and to lead to a larger flare-up, which could also include a more extensive military operation in the West Bank. Most of the shooting attacks on the highways caused little harm due to the fact that most of the attackers are young and inexperienced. They also fire from a relatively distant range and sometimes use improvised weapons.

But an attack against an Israeli family on the eve of a holiday, or a suicide attack that would recall the old traumas, could be a total game changer. And it’s worth mentioning once again that the sides are not operating in a vacuum, but against the backdrop of the Knesset election campaign, which could be dominated by a securitized agenda if the Israeli public's sense of safety is undermined.

Palestinian demonstrators clashing with Palestinian security forces, in Nablus, today.Credit: RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP

The incident in Nablus on Monday night was unusual. For the first time in months, the Palestinian Authority security services operated there and arrested a Hamas activist, who was also wanted by Israel. We cannot rule out the likelihood that the PA did so due to heavy pressure from the Israeli side, and messages that were conveyed both secretly and openly.

The services are constantly operating under conflicting pressures. On the one hand, they don’t want to be seen as collaborators with Israel, and on the other, they fear the possibility that Hamas could stage a military coup in the West Bank in the future, as it did successfully in the Gaza Strip in 2007.

The Palestinian issue is not on the global agenda. It barely appears, in a relatively low spot, on the global order of priorities. The speeches by Prime Minister Yair Lapid and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations in New York, will reflect the approaches of the two sides, in light of the election campaign in Israel and international indifference.

But the real developments will be dictated on the ground in the West Bank, based on the balance of bloodshed and the degree of success of Palestinian terror squads in attacks against Israeli citizens.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

בנימין נתניהו השקת ספר

Netanyahu’s Israel Is About to Slam the Door on the Diaspora

עדי שטרן

Head of Israel’s Top Art Academy Leads a Quiet Revolution

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

Skyscrapers in Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv.

Israel May Have Caught the Worst American Disease, New Research Shows

ג'אמיל דקוור

Why the Head of ACLU’s Human Rights Program Has Regrets About Emigrating From Israel

ISRAEL-VOTE

Netanyahu’s Election Win Dealt a Grievous Blow to Judaism